India Insight

from The Human Impact:

“Urinating in dams” to solve India’s drought? Minister faces backlash

As India's western state of Maharashtra reels from the worst drought in over four decades and millions of people face the risk of hunger, a top official has sparked outrage with a crass, insensitive joke that he should urinate in the region's empty dams to solve water shortages.

Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra and former irrigation minister, referred in a speech last weekend to a poor drought-hit farmer who had been on hunger strike for almost two months to demand more water.

"He has been fasting for the last 55 days. If there is no water in the dam, how can we release it? Should we urinate into it? If there is no water to drink, even urination is not possible," Pawar told the gathering, who responded with much laughter.

Dubbed as "Urine-Gate" by some sections of the media, Pawar's controversial comments have been played and replayed on India's national news channels over the past week, sparking a barrage of criticism from civil society groups and opposition politicians who are demanding he resign over the remarks.

Aid workers say almost one-fifth of Maharashtra, India's third-largest state and one of the biggest producers of sugar, pulses, cotton and soybeans, has been declared drought-hit. Dams are empty, farmland is parched and livestock are emaciated.

Cauvery River water fight paralyses Bangalore on Saturday

(This article was reported by Gokul Chandrasekar, Vineet Sharma and Bidya Sapam. Photos by Bidya Sapam)

The water was running in Bangalore on Saturday, but the buses were not.

“I have been waiting for a bus for over two hours now,” said Prabhat Kishan, 60, at the Majestic Bus Station in Bangalore.

India’s information technology capital shut down on Saturday over a state-wide “bandh,” or strike, that shut down shops, malls and restaurants. The bandh’s organizers paralysed the city to protest a decision by India’s Supreme Court to demand that the state of Karnataka allow the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu to get precious additional reserves of water from the Cauvery River. It is the latest episode in a dispute that has endured for years in a country that is facing alarming shortages of groundwater.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Thirsty South Asia’s river rifts threaten “water wars”

As the silver waters of the Kishanganga rush through this north Kashmir valley, Indian labourers are hard at work on a hydropower project that will dam the river just before it flows across one of the world's most militarised borders into Pakistan.

The loud hum of excavators echoes through the pine-covered valley, clearing masses of soil and boulders.

The 330-MW dam shows India's growing focus on hydropower but also highlights how water is a growing source of tension with downstream Pakistan, which depends on the snow-fed Himalayan rivers for everything from drinking water to agriculture.

Delhi superbug a symptom of India’s ills

By Neha Arha

From objecting to biological samples in the form of “swabs of seepage water and tap water” being smuggled out of the country “on the sly” by British scientists, to calling the resultant Lancet report a western plot to kill India’s potentially $2.3 billion medical tourism industry, New Delhi’s defensive rhetoric appears misplaced as cases of poor health standards surface each day in India’s capital city.

A child drinks water from a tap in a slum area of New Delhi June 4, 2003. REUTERS/FilesA study, published last August in The Lancet Infectious Diseases citing the drug resistant NDM-1 bug that had evolved in India, and named after New Delhi, raised global concerns when the World Health Organisation endorsed the report.

Since its release, the Indian health establishment has downplayed its findings, and alleged a conflict of interest over the report’s funding.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan: a personal view of the water wars

 It was so long in the making,  so utterly predictable, that the news that Pakistan and India are now arguing over water carries with it the dull ache of inevitability.

When I was living in Delhi, which I left in 2004, a few analysts were already warning that the next war between Pakistan and India would be over water, rather than over Kashmir.  The mountain glaciers which fed the rivers which are the lifeline of both countries were melting, they said, and sooner or later India and Pakistan would blame each other for climate change. I did not take it that seriously at the time. Not even after seeing first hand how far the Siachen glacier - the world's longest glacier - had receded.  

Nor indeed did it properly register after talking to an Indian sherpa who had led the first Indian military expedition to Siachen in 1978 in what India considers part of its own Ladakh region  At the time, Ladakh was much colder, he said, and the snow on the glacier came right down into the valley. It had receded in recent years because of global warming, exposing the black tracts of scree I had scrambled up during my trip there. “It was like a beautiful road coming right down from K2,”he said, , “black moraine on either side.” There was nothing, and nobody there.

from Russell Boyce:

Don’t drink the water, even if there is any to drink (Update)

One more picture that caught my eye during the 24 hours news cycle for the World Water Day is the image of hundreds of hoses providing drinking water to  residents of a housing block in Jakarta.  The grubby plastic pipes supplying a fragile lifeline to families seem to represent the desperation that people face when the water supply is cut off.

bea 

Hoses used to supply residences with water are seen hanging across a street at the Penjaringan subdistrict in Jakarta March 22, 2010. Residents in the area say that they have had to construct makeshift water supplies for their homes by attaching hoses to pumps bought with their own money, as the government has yet to repair the original water supply which was damaged. March 22 is World Water Day.     REUTERS/Beawiharta

Today, March 22 is World Water Day and Reuters photographers in Asia were given an open brief to shoot feature pictures to illustrate it.  The only requirement I asked of them is that they included in the captions, the fact that while the Earth is literally covered in water, more than a billion people lack access to clean water for drinking or sanitation. At the same time in China 50 million people are facing drought conditions and water shortages and the two stories seemed to tie in with one another.

Chandrayaan finds water ice on moon

INDIA/MOON

After India’s first lunar mission Chandrayaan – 1 found evidence of water on the moon’s surface, scientists have now discovered more than 40 small craters with water ice on the moon.  

Chandrayaan – 1 carried a NASA radar on board which has detected deposits of water ice at both poles of the moon. 

Many scientists believe the discovery is very significant. They say water ice could serve as a natural resource for future lunar mission landings, can be liquefied into drinking water and water components could be used to provide breathing air and rocket fuel. 

  •